This is the final chapter of my Camp NaNoWriMo project. To see earlier chapters click here. All comments welcome. Story copyright Jemima Pett.
Chapter 24: Enlightenment
In which the General holds forth and Humphrey finds he has everything he wants
The General of the Western Marches sat in the comfortable lounge adjacent to the King’s study and sipped a glass of refined strawberry juice. A week had passed since Major Robert had brought his report on the Need for and Use of the 4th and 5th Regiments in the Dispute between Castles Deeping, Forest and White Horse. The testimony of the former prisoners had swayed the General into further investigation, after which he had visited Lord Colman to hear what he had to say on the matter.
“I cannot tell you what he said, King Benson, it being a confidential matter,” the General creased up one side of his face it what seemed to represent a wink, “but it does not tally with my evidence, so I have no hesitation in leaving the 4th and 5th for you to use at your discretion, provided their use is within the general guidelines we discussed at the very start.”
Benson nodded. That was as much as he’d hoped, really.
“As for the Kings’ Council,” he paused to sip his drink and gaze at the ceiling as if there was inspiration to be found there. “It will be difficult. I’m an army man, I don’t understand politics.”
Much you don’t, thought Benson.
“They won’t meet till the New Year now. Solstice, Yule, and then there’s a royal wedding at Marsh which some people have been invited to,” he said, glaring at Major Robert, who ignored him. “I think you will have supporters. I think some of those will be simply because Lord Smallweed supports Lord Colman, others will actually support your cause. If I was a betting man, which of course I’m not…”
Benson wondered if he should invite the General to the next race meeting on the cursus and see if that was true.
“… then I would bet that Prince Lupin makes some arrangement to warn Lord Colman against attacking you in future, and Lord Smallweed will threaten to cut off your beer supply if you continue to allege that Colman has done anything against you.”
“Cut off our beer supply? That’s harsh. I don’t know how we’ll stand it!” Benson said with a straight face.
The General chuckled. “There’s not much he can do without showing too much of his hand. Smallweed wants influence and control, Colman is the right sort of person for him. I’m glad you’ve been able to maintain your independence.”
“What of Lord Duffield?” asked Benson.
“Hmm. Do you think he will rebuild Castle Forest?”
“It will take a fortune. I don’t know whether he’ll find people with the right skills these days.”
“No. Stone castles are not exactly in vogue in the modern building trade,” said the General. There was a murmur from the rest of the company present at this. The General’s dry wit was much appreciated.
“We will be rebuilding the spectator area in time for the Yule races, provided the weather holds. Will you be my guest for them?” asked Benson.
“I would love to, but duty will call me north for the Yule season. I always go first footing to show my solidarity with our brethren up there. They do a very nice variation of mead up there too.” Diesel took the hint and refilled the General’s glass.
The conversation, one sided though it was, turned to more general matters, and Humphrey stopped listening and told the others what he’d heard.
“So Colman gets away with it?” Winston was outraged, in a mild-mannered sort of way.
Humphrey said nothing.
“It’s probably enough that the other kings and lords know that there is something going on,” said Glory. “I wonder if any of them will visit?”
“Do you think Freya will visit, like she said?” asked Humphrey.
“Would you like her to? They are your friends, I suppose,” Glory said.
Humphrey considered that. Freya and Hywel and Betty had been his first friends. Now Hywel was a werewolf, Betty was dead, and had turned out to be on the other side. Freya… he didn’t know quite what Freya was.
“They used to be,” he said. “You are my real friends though.”
They went down to chat to Bertie, who had taken up residence in a dungeon to sit out the period of the last full moon of the year. It was going to take some adjustment.
Humphrey paused as they passed a window. The western hills were bathed in moonlight. It looked almost like they had snow on them still. There’d be more, he’d been told when the first lot melted. He hoped so. Snow was pretty. The western hills looked wild and enticing.
Some day, he told himself. Some day I’ll go all the way west. Right now, I have my friends to stay with and look after. And a library. I have everything I could possibly want. And he continued down the stairs to join Winston, Bertie and Glory. His friends.
The Way West, by Jemima Pett, draft in 24 instalments. All rights reserved.
I hope you enjoyed that. It needs some editing and also a few plot points tidied up, but I enjoyed writing it. We’ll meet at least some of these characters again in future stories.